(Breeders’ Cup at Keeneland / All Photos by Coady Photography)
To borrow and paraphrase from one of the greatest movies of all time — “The Good, The Bad & The Ugly” — we offer up our own version we like to call “The Unbelievable, The Beautiful & the Reprehensible” of this year’s Breeders’ Cup, which concluded on Saturday’s version of “Gone With the Wind” at Keeneland Race Course in Lexington.
Like most, if not all, major events — including the previous Breeders’ Cups — there were some unbelievable moments that take the breath; that shutter the eyes; that blow the mind. And, this year’s version was no different. There were times in plentiful supply, and just what the doctor ordered for the greatest sport ever created.
Like most, if not all, major events — including previous Breeders’ Cups — there were some beautiful moments, as well. Memories that become photographs to album in the mind. Scenes that replay over and over on a continuous loop, never to be forgotten or replaced. Lovely pauses of time and life that make you feel alive and glad to be in the moment. There were those “paintings” that will forever stir, too.
And, like most, if not all major events — including previous Breeders’ Cup — there were some reprehensible things that soil the times, if not completely, at least in part. There were moments that left you and others shaking your head in absolute amazement, and not in a good way. There were things that stopped you in the moment and made you question who was in charge, and why was this happening — especially on our biggest stage — without explanation or remedy. There were times when you knew — in your heart and your stomach — that these moments need to be made totally public and transparent; addressed; fixed; explained; apologized for; and promised to never happen again. Unfortunately, there were way, way, way too many of these over the two days, as well. Way too many.
Over the next couple of days, we will cover each. Today’s edition: “The Beautiful:”
There is no doubt that Keeneland is one of the most beautiful places on God’s Green Earth. Any where. Any time. Without question, the hand of the Almighty had a hand in painting this picture.
“Just look at this — The Vista,” as the great broadcaster Tom Hammond used to say every day after the final race at Lexington’s historic racetrack was concluded. He would lean out over the window of the press box. Arms folded over the threshold. The wind whipping his gray locks like a Big Beautiful Fan on a hot summer’s day. And, he would just look. He would look at the brown dirt of the main track below and the contrast with the brilliant bluegrass of the turf course aside. He would look at the rolling hills to the West and the migration of the cars and fans to the East. He would look at the jets taking off, headed into the sky like birds of paradise. He would look at the horses grazing on the green, green grass of home.
No more words were needed. No more were given.
Any way, Tom inspired others in the press box to join him. The bitter would amble up. The ink-stained wretches, who could find fault in nearly all things beautiful, would join the ranks. The tall and the small would stand and just visit “The Vista.” The long and short of it all was that the same ritual would be our benediction to each day of live racing.
It was our homage and our thanks giving. It was our way to relax and breathe in. It was our way to give back. You could almost hear the horses munching on the sweet feed and the alfalfa in the stalls behind. You could smell the muck being removed. You could feel the wind slap your face with a gentle brush of the hand. You could sense peace.
There were few places in this world that could match the beauty of this scene. And, we all knew it.
Over the last few days, we Kentuckians got to share Keeneland with the world — again. We asked the world to join us on the top floor of that old grandstand and to gaze out of this virtual press box at “The Vista.” We invited the world to see what we get to see — and enjoy — nearly every day.
We got to share Kentucky’s beauty that marries Earth to Horse with the fans that matter most.
On three occasions now, the Breeders’ Cup has held its’ annual championship in Lexington. At Keeneland. Each have been a bit different, and a salute to those who have done the most to make this event happen and now globally successful.
But this week’s event may have been the most scenic. The unseasonably warm weather beckoned all to spend more time outside than shuttered within. The leaves, in the deep Fall of their lives, were turning from green to yellow and red and were holding on by the skin of their teeth to the trees that bore them life and limb. The breeze went from tepid to tunnel and raked the grounds with fruits and nuts.
Keeneland’s limestone shinned like a historic castle of long ago. The barns — open and welcome to all — stood like historic markers for the sport’s best. The beauty of the morning’s shill sent puffs of steam off both horse and rider into the sky like smoke signals of a coming party.
It was Breeders’ Cup in Kentucky. And, it was beautiful. For both horse and fan.
(Malathaat from beginning to end of the Distaff / All Photos by Coady Photography)
3-Horse Photo Finish in Distaff:
There are few things in life more thrilling than a head-bobbing, grunt-sounding, and and sweat-flying finish of both horses and riders at the end of a horse race.
For a half-second, one duo would inch ahead. A half-second later, the other team would wrestle the lead away. Back and forth it goes. Back. Forth. Until the end.
And, then a roar of both sighs and glees from adoring fans and agonizing losers.
But one of the things in life that is truly more thrilling than that?
It is when three horses and riders team up to provide a 3-horse photo finish. Double the pleasure, may be the case. But triple the fun when 3 horses decide that they want to win more than any others.
And, that’s exactly what happened at the end of Saturday’s Distaff when eventual champ Malathaat, near-winner Blue Stripe and the galant third-place finisher Clairiere all teamed up — side by side — to grind their way to the invisible finish line.
Blue Stripe lunged down the middle, every muscle straining for that end.
Clairiere wiggled her way up the rail, grinding with every stride to push her nostril in front.
Malathaat roared on the outside, seemingly always beaten, but never admitting defeat.
They fought. They strained. They poked. They prodded. And, they gave all.
A wash cloth could have covered their noses. Only a camera lens, focused closely from the outside rail to the inside post, could separate the trio.
As the fans waited for there ultimate result, you could hear the pleads and the opinions. You could sense the tension, that seemingly lasted longer than the race itself. Some wished against fate. Some saw visions of grandeur. Some worried about lost chances and hopes.
Finally, the result was flashed. Malathaat had won. Barely. Blue Stripe had saved second. Barely. Clairiere was the unlucky 3rd. Barely.
Inches apart, they were.
But the finish of the race was miles ahead in terms of Breeders’ Cup history. One of the best. Ever.
(A look at the grand Flightline by the grand team at Coady Photography / All Photos by Coady Photography)
All week leading up to the Breeders’ Cup, we provided you with some of the best pictures that camera can provide from the expert team at Coady Photography. The images were so good that we wanted to share the moments in time. We hoped that they could help you live this event vicariously from afar.
We heard from many of you with words of both praise and thanks.
Truth is, nothing can replace the personal experience of attending the event of the Breeders’ Cup and the amazing sights of the horses that your own eyes can capture and burn into the memory of your brain.
But the Coady Team is pretty darn close. And, we thank them. One and all.
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